A bleak picture of SA’s public schools

In a Cape Flats classroom, a diligent matric student yearns for a maths instructor. Her classmates, frustrated with all they have shed out on, antagonise the substitute instructor they’ve been sent — his specialty, following all, is in English and lifestyle orientation. 

Riaz Solker’s Sodium Day, releasing in selected Nu Metro and Ster-Kinekor cinemas on 22 April, is about a working day in the lifestyle of grade 12Y pupils at John Shelby Significant School, and delivers a difficult appear into lifestyle at South Africa’s general public schools.

The film begins with a bang — practically. In the early morning ahead of college starts, three learners are experimenting with titular sodium, hoping for a dramatic response. They are tired of the way factors are at their school, and have tiny anticipation of anything at all changing. 

As the day carries on, so do the misdemeanours we are introduced to the pupil who has dropped out of lessons to turn out to be the designated college stability guard for R2 800 a thirty day period, a scholar who carries a knife, and stories further than the classroom involving schoolgirls and community gangsters. 

An trade with a team of personal university learners who go to for a day is a stark demonstration of inequality and a microcosm of the broader South African photo. The change in socioeconomic backgrounds is meant to make the pupils work alongside one another, find popular ground and master from a person an additional, but as a substitute it exposes patronising attitudes and blindness to the everyday living the John Shelby learners facial area.

Boldly confronting stereotypes by both of those critiquing and participating in on them, as a coming-of-age film, it not only exposes the severe lifestyle on the Cape Flats, but also considers the journey of the college students into adulthood. They are not able to be on their own as they will not be approved in their local community, so they shapeshift and code-switch as is required in get to guarantee their survival. 

Sodium Working day grapples with racism, gender-based violence, gang violence, and even autism, and by the school’s burnt-out and ill-handled academics, demonstrates how these challenges progress into the group. 

In genuine South African design, the incredibly weighty moments are well balanced by off-conquer idiosyncratic humour. When some scenes are hard to enjoy, and some language is complicated to have an understanding of, the film engages a range of human emotions, and the younger cast of movie students provide the complex and endearing people vividly to daily life. 

Although a great deal consideration has been compensated to the repercussions of the pandemic on university-heading youngsters, Sodium Working day shines a gentle on pervasive issues that have always been there and keep on to fester in the technique. Figures South Africa every single quarter qualified prospects with the actuality that the country’s unemployment fee sits at a record higher, with the most up-to-date stats revealing that 66.5% of youth aged 15-24 are unemployed. 

For Solker, who has been a instructor due to the fact 1996, the movie is an acknowledgement of true South African learners and educational facilities. Constrained by paperwork and destructive stereotypes, black and brown students are frequently trapped in a circle of despondency, and their roles are normally restricted to punchlines, lousy guys and supporting characters. 

To see community stories instructed by way of local movie is a usually means of self-reckoning for South Africans, supplying a real chance to take into account wherever we are, and how we got here. “We are not looking at nuance, and I hope this will commence a dialogue about what genuinely goes on in educational institutions,” Solker said at a private screening of the film. Like the perform King Lear, the story finishes in tragedy. With the hopes of South Africa’s long term pinned onto the youth, Sodium Working day is a sobering seem at how in several situations, youthful people’s wings have been clipped just before they have been provided even a fighting probability at traveling.

Suhaimah Suliman